A rejoinder to Micah Sifry's gentle tweak 

My friend Micah Sifry scolds me - quite diplomatically, I must say - for taking him at his word when he wrote in an important Dec. 30, 2009, Tech President post, that the 2008 Obama presidential campaign "was never nearly as free of dependence on big money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied.

And for further taking him at his word when he added in the same December post that:

"And this is the big story of 2009, if you ask me, the meta-story of what did, and didn't happen, in the first year of Obama's administration. The people who voted for him weren't organized in any kind of new or powerful way, and the special interests--banks, energy companies, health interests, car-makers, the military-industrial complex--sat first at the table and wrote the menu. Myth met reality, and came up wanting."

Based in part on Micah's analysis, I responded by suggesting that "the truth about the Obama campaign in 2008 was almost exactly the opposite of that mythic rendition at the heart of the conventional Mainstream Media wisdom. Sifrty's post also makes clear why many of the Obama administration's major political and personnel decisions events of 2009 make little sense apart from that truth."

I will leave it to readers to decide for themselves whether my comments on Micah's analysis were reasonable, or, as as he now puts it, "a fast one." Nobody should be surprised, though, that Micah and I reached somewhat different conclusions about the implications of his assessment that the Obama campaign was not as "bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied." And I entirely understand if he is reluctant for prudential reasons about following the logic of his analysis as far as others might.

The more interesting point that seems to be emerging from the discussion, though, concerns what should be made of the  disconnect between the image projected by the Obama campaign about itself in 2008 and the reality of the Obama administration's approach in its proposed solutions to major problems in 2009, as a predicter of future political behavior among assorted demographics.

Micah thinks the situation in fact is "messier" than the coming "liberal crackup" he says I too-hastily predicted in portraying his post as "an early tremor warning that just such an upheaval is coalescing on the political horizon."

Interesting choice of words, that "messier" is. Is Micah sort of agreeing with me, or perhaps hinting that he sees (but prefers not to concede on the record) some truth in my suggestion that there are serious political problems ahead for Obama among Net-Geners who enthusiastically supported him in 2008.

The problems will come, in my view, as these folks, who thought Obama was a tech-savvy, Internet-driven decentralizer like them, realize that he is mostly proposing decidely pre-digital era, top-down, centralized government solutions. Incidentally, remember that this isn't a recent prediction by me; I first pointed it out before Obama took the oath of office.

In any case, it is clear that Micah devoutly hopes things will get dramatically better on the transparency and accountability front for the Obama administration, reminding us that "it may [yet] be that Obama's initiatives in opening up massive amounts of government data and mandating bold experiments in participatory and collaborative governance--many of which are just beginning--could turn out to be the most transformative and positive elements of his presidency."

That is as true of the Obama administration at the end of its first year as it would be of any administration at the same point in political time. The question is whether it's more or less likely to improve, as we all hope it does, given the disconnect between 2008 image and 2009 reality.

Finally, Micah gently tweaks me for allowing my "Heritage Foundation training and reflexes" to induce me to a hasty conclusion about Obama "when the opportunity to score political points seems so easy."

Actually, it was during my years at Heritage in which I first met and worked with Micah, and grew to respect him as one of the genuinely original New Media thinkers, regardless of ideological orientation.

I still do.  

 

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Mark Tapscott

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